April is Autism Awareness Month.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 1 in 59 children has been identified with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), which occurs in all racial, ethnic and socioeconomic groups. Since 1970, April has been recognized as Autism Awareness Month, with World Autism Awareness Day observed on April 2.
Texas Tech University is home to the Burkhart Center for Autism Education & Research, a multidisciplinary, lifespan autism center that is part of the College of Education, which offers support and services for individuals and families; provides professional education and training; and conducts collaborative, cutting-edge research on ASD treatment and training methodologies. Established in 2005, the center has become well-known in the ASD community, sharing and presenting research and methods across the country and receiving numerous accolades along the way, including recognition as a 2019 Thought Leader in Special Education by the Council for Exceptional Children.
The center offers several programs focused on improving the lives of individuals with ASD and their families, including:
- Mobile Outreach Clinic for Autism (MOCA) for families in rural, underserved areas
- Statewide Autism Training Workshop Series for Texas educators
- Transition Academy, which includes a working-lab partnership with Quiznos
- BurkTech Players theatre company, which includes performers with ASD
- Connections for Academic Success and Employment (CASE) Program
- Applied Behavior Analysis - Teacher Training Institute Program
Experts from the center are available to speak on a variety of topics related to autism.
Wes Dotson, Ph.D., Burkhart Center director, (806) 834-0783 or firstname.lastname@example.org
- In addition to leading the center since 2017, Dotson is a board-certified behavior analyst-doctoral (BCBA-D) and an associate professor in the Department of Educational Psychology and Leadership. He also oversees the outpatient services for the Burkhart Center. He has more than 18 years of special education experience and serves as chairman of the Texas Autism Council and on the Texas Department of Licensure and Regulation Behavior Analysts Advisory Board. Among other topics, Dotson can speak on applied behavior analysis, which uses learning techniques, principles and interventions to encourage meaningful and positive change in behavior; the design, delivery and evaluation of autism services and support; and preparing teachers and therapists to work successfully with ASD students, including those in rural and underserved school districts.
Jennifer Hamrick, Ph.D., BCBA, (806) 834-0054 or email@example.com
- Hamrick, an assistant professor in the Department of Educational Psychology and Leadership, is a certified teacher and BCBA with more than 18 years of experience in special education in large school districts. She leads two of the center's newest state outreach initiatives, the Autism Training Workshop Series, which partners Texas Tech with ASD specialists and educators at Texas Education Service Centers across the state, and the Mobile Outreach Clinic for Autism, which brings training and support to families and caregivers of children with ASD in underserved, rural communities in West Texas. Hamrick also teaches graduate-level courses in the applied behavior analysis and can speak on best practices when working effectively with students with special needs in public education.
DeAnn Lechtenberger, Ph.D., director, Connections for Academic Success and Employment (CASE) Program, (806) 834-7804 or firstname.lastname@example.org
- Lechtenberger, a research assistant professor at the Burkhart Center, leads the CASE Program, which assists students with ASD and other developmental disabilities in navigating college, and empowers them to reach their academic goals and find competitive employment after graduation. She has more than 30 years of experience in special and general education at the local, state and federal levels and has designed several programs that focus on serving individuals with ASD and other developmental disabilities, their families and the professionals who support them.
Janice Magness, director, Transition Academy, (806) 834-3725 or email@example.com
- Magness leads the Transition Academy, a program for high school graduates that emphasizes job, social, independent-living and leadership skills and provides opportunities to complete internships and obtain employment with partners on and off campus. Her students have found success with employers like the Quiznos Sub Sandwich Restaurant at Texas Tech, a working-lab partnership Magness helped establish in 2015, and Wild Rabbit Farms, a local private garden where students learn about growing, harvesting and selling produce. Magness previously served as interim co-director of the Burkhart Center and has more than 30 years of classroom experience, including 18 years as a content mastery teacher with Lubbock Independent School District, where she worked primarily with ASD students.